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Diet Drinks have Role to Play

February 16, 2009: 08:11 PM EST
Research has shown that diet drinks containing non-nutritive sweeteners can help people to control their weight, but only if they’re not used as an excuse to eat more calories from other sources. Only about 15 percent of Americans regularly choose food and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners, despite the rising tide of obesity. Reasons for sticking with caloric sweeteners such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup include taste and safety fears. In a few cases the safety fears have been well founded, but in general there is no evidence that the wide range of alternatives on the market actually cause health problems. Successfully using diet sodas as part of a weight loss plan comes down to behavior rather than biology, says Dr Barry M. Popkin of the University of North Carolina, who reviewed 224 studies with a colleague, Richard D. Mattes of Purdue University. Non-nutritive sweeteners help with weight loss only if they substitute for calories, not if they are used as an excuse to consume high-calorie foods or drinks.
Jane E. Brody, "Sweeteners: Real Aid or Excuse to Indulge?", New York Times, February 16, 2009, © The New York Times Company
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